May 08, 2012

Wacom Intuos5 Review - Multi-touch and More!

Wacom has done it again with the new release in their Intuos series, the Wacom Intuos5. Wacom is promising a productivity increase with the new multi-touch surface along with enhanced features; let us see how the new Intuos5 stacks up with the Intuos4 we reviewed sometime back!

After having a good chunk of time to use the Intuos5 in my overall work day along with in personal design projects, I can now say I have used the Intuos5 enough to write one of the typical full-blown reviews that you all know!

Enough jibber-jabbin', let's get on with the all new and snazzy Intuos5!



When I reviewed the Intuos4 way back when, I was very impresse with the overall design. Although, like the recent Photoshop CS6 updated UI, the Intuos4 stood out a bit too much with its black bezel and lit up buttons; a designer wants to focus on his/her project and not the tools they use to achieve such. This is where Wacom realized they had to do something, and boy, what they did was fantastic!

The new Intuos5 features a very slick, matte black finish. With its new eight impressed ExpressKeys on the sides, you can now clearly feel what button you are pressing without looking down to the tablet. Not only did Wacom make the Intuos5 easier to use, they took it one step further; the entire "bezel" of the device is outlined with a rubbery, soft to the touch finish, making the Intuos5 easier to glide your hands across like never before.

One gripe I had with the Intuos4 was the tracking area... it stopped right at the edge of the drawing area, making it so whenever you are at the edge, your hand will be on the very edge of the tablet; quite the uncomfortable feeling if you ask me. Like many other improved features, Wacom has eliminated this in their design with having a bit of a bleed to the tracking area. This in turn allows for a more natural feeling of "drawing off from the edge" like you do on a piece of paper.

With good design, one might think build quality would be lacking... wrong! The Intuos5 features a very solid design when compared with its brother, the Intuos4. Everything thing seems more tightly compacted in the Intuos5, making it a very solid tablet to draw on.


 Input Devices

Just like the Intuos4, the Intous5 features all the same nibs (pen tips), the same pen, and the same styled holder, that feels more soft to the touch compared to the Intuos4's pen holder. One thing I would like to point out is that Wacom has chosen to not provide the mouse like they did for the Intuos4, instead, replaced with an all new feature... multi-touch!

The multi-touch features work surprisingly well, granted that the implementation is 100% custom. There are very many types of gestures that you can achieve, ranging from one finger all the way up to five fingers. Now that's what I call options! And with the typical Wacom shortcuts dropdown, you can assign anything that your heart desires. I also have to mention, Intuos4 users might know that when using the TouchRing (which we will get to shortly), zooming in and out was somewhat choppy (at least for me that is). On the new Intuos5, when pinching to zoom in and out, it is as smooth as it can be. It honestly feels so natural to work with your hands on the new Intuos5; some have thought that it is "unprofessional", but in reality, it is the best feature Wacom could have ever added to the Intuos5. I have four-fingers down set up as a clipping mask; it is now so easy to create a clipping mask on a layer without even moving my cursor or hands! Now that is just awesome! Wacom is da bomb! :D

However, I have to admit, the multi-touch features are a bit sporadic for me. Throughout daily use of the tablet, the multi-touch features can disable at the most random times along with other odd bugs happening. To re-enable the touch features, I need to turn off and on the tablet. I have emailed Wacom on this one and hope to figure out why I am getting this. I had some speculation it might be the Logitech mouse drivers (the Logitech LX8 is by far my favorite mouse... ever) getting in the way, but I still have to confirm this with the tech guys over at Wacom. Very annoying when the touch features suddenly stop working, but it is most definitely software causing it.

And just like all the other Wacom graphic tablets, the Intuos5 is compatible with all the same extra accessories like the airbrush and art pen. Thank you Wacom for not pulling an "Apple-move" and forcing users to buy new accessories (hey, we know it's true)! :P



ExpressKeys and TouchRing

One of the newly updated features, the ExpressKeys, along with the TouchRing, are some of the most important functions of the Intuos5. The layout of these buttons is the same compared to the Intuos4, but what is different is that there is no indication what these buttons do on the tablet (the Intuos4 had an OLED screen next to every button).

Wacom chose an interesting path on this one... they do not want you looking at the tablet, at all. As people using any graphic tablet should focus on the work and not the tools they use, this is a brilliant move on Wacom's part that adds little distraction (and besides, when you draw on a real canvas on the desk, you do not really stare at one point... you look at the picture as a whole). Instead, when you hover of the buttons with you fingers, an information box will pop up on your screen informing you on what these buttons do. You will most likely remember what all eight of these buttons do, especially when Wacom has labeled them by feel to with the extruding dots and lines.

On the TouchRing, this has not changed at all, except for the fact that Wacom has now placed the indicator lights in all four corners instead of around the right edge, which in my mind, is brilliant as having four LEDs close to each other is just hard to look at.

And besides, this side of the tablet just looks so slick! It is so soft to the touch and your fingers glide across it with ease.



Wireless Freedom

When you just thought that the new multi-touch features are killer, that's not all folks'! Wacom has decided to take it one step ahead and include a full wireless accessory kit for a mere $39.95. There is not too much to say except, it works and it does it well! If you are the type of designer that loves to work while on the go (I am one of them), the wireless accessory kit is a must for you. With the versatility factor, it is well worth the small investment.

It is also very easy to turn on/off along while storing the mini-USB receiver that plugs into your computer (to the right of the power button on the right hand side)

Despite how little it is, the wireless feature packs a punch:

  • 10-hour battery life with Intuos5 touch Small.
  • 9-hour battery life with Intuos5 touch Medium.
  • 6-hour battery life with Intuos5 touch Large.
  • 15-hour battery life with Bamboo Capture (CTH470 and CTH470M) or 10 hours use on Bamboo Create (CTH670 and CTH670M).
  • RF wireless technology offers immediate pairing and avoidance of compatibility issues.
  • Wireless operating distance is up to 10 meters.
  • Recharging through your USB port takes 3.5 hours for an 85% charge and less than 6 hours for a 100% charge.
  • (and one feature they forgot to advertise... everything works just like it was connected via USB! Zero lag!)
Impressive if you ask me.  The charging might take a while to get to a full charge, but it's no different than the iPad 3 (let's count how many times I bash Apple... and I own many of their products)! :P  


The software itself is no different compared to the Intuos4, except for the added compatibility features for the HUD window for the ExpressKeys (and TouchRing for that matter) and multi-touch features. I have not had any software bugs (other than the one multi-touch glitch I spoke about), so for the most part, their software is very solid. While speaking of software, you get all kinds of free software along with every purchase of the Intuos5:
  • Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 10 for PC and Mac
  • Anime Studio® Debut by Smith Micro
  • Autodesk® SketchBook® Express
  • Corel® Painter™ 12
  • Nik® Software Color Efex Pro™ 4 Select Edition
  • Wacom® Brushes - not software, but special Photoshop brushes!
Anime Studio is actually a new addition, and from what I hear, it is a ton of fun to use. And like always, Photoshop Elements 10 is offered to anyone who is just getting started, which is a very nice perk! And luckily, Wacom did nothing with the radial menu (the circle menu on the upper part of the screen above) as it is already perfect! The radial menu is by far an amazing feature as you can customize it to multiple menus and add practically anything. No one wants to navigate through many levels of menus, which Photoshop is known for. This is why the radial menu is just pure awesomeness!  

The Intuos5 is Amazing!

  Overall, I have to give a hand to Wacom for pulling off a very nice successional upgrade to the Intuos line of graphic tablets. With its new multi-touch features, sleek look, and wireless features, it is a designer's dream to have such a gadget. From looks all the way to build quality, I can clearly tell the Wacom tried very hard on this release, and boy, was it worth it! The tablet that we tested, the medium Intuos5, retails for $349, small for $229, and the large for $469 (they eliminated the x-large probably due to low demand). The small Intuos5 is wonderful, but be aware of how tiny it really is. If you have a multi-monitor setup like mine (15" MBP and 1080P monitor), even the medium tablet tracks very quickly when mapped to both displays. I ended up mapping the medium tablet to my 1080P monitor only and relied on the touch features to move it over to the 15" screen on my MacBook Pro. I would not say you should use the Intuos5 with more than one display... it's just not meant for that. Without a doubt, the Intuos5 is my favorite graphic tablet thus far by Wacom. They really upped the build quality on this one and delivered such a solid product, that you drool while looking at it.   For more information on the Wacom Intuos5, please check out their product website below:

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